The Hall-of-Famer at Children’s Hospital
by Jeremy Rush
Dottie Rager works in the executive suite at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. But she’s done pretty well with the music, too.
What they might not know, even in the administrative suite at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt where she works, is that she is a literal hall-of-famer; she was recently inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame, as a member of the popular regional band Redeye.
It’s a mighty long way from a small Nebraska town to a successful music career to her current job, but Rager remembers every bit of the ride.
Raised in the small town of Pierce, Neb., Rager, who is senior executive assistant for Children’s Hospital administration, had a picturesque American upbringing, which is indicated by the whole thing her family had going with the letter “D.”
“My dad’s name is Dallas, and my mom’s name is Darlene. I have a brother, Dan, and two sisters Deb and Dawn… and dad drove a Dodge and we had a dog named Duke,” she laughs.
With not much else to do in rural Nebraska, Rager says that she and her sisters would listen to records, sing and dance and make up shows to sing to their mom at their picnic table.
They scratched and warped her father’s vinyl record collection, which was full of classic country artists like Charlie Rich, Merle Haggard and Charlie Pride.
Rager began singing at local fairs, music festivals and church gatherings. Soon music moved from a hobby to her full-time passion.
Music as a career
She eventually landed in Nashville, and began working for Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, and, later, for famed songwriter and music publisher Buddy Killen.
As a song plugger, attempting to persuade artists to record songs from writers she represented, she never let doors close on her. She took Killen’s advice to heart: “Say ‘yes’ first, and then figure out a way to get it done later.”
She was responsible for placing album cuts with big-time artists like Alan Jackson, Daryl Worley and John Michael Montgomery in the ’90s, songs that were written by her friend and accomplished songwriter John Wiggins.
She also released her own solo debut album in 2007, Gone But Not Forgotten. The album is a homage to the classic country sounds that she loves, and it showcases her soulful, modern singing voice — sort of a Patsy Cline meets Norah Jones feel. The album includes several of her own original songs, and backing her in the studio are the Jordanaires, the legendary gospel quartet that famously sang behind Elvis Presley, Tammy Wynette and many more.
In July of this year, Rager and members of her former band, Redeye, were inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame. When she joined Redeye in 1992, the rock and roll group received an injection of classic country music, a mixture that brought both Rager and the band out of their comfort zones and created a unique blend of music.
At Redeye’s induction ceremony, despite all the accolades showered on the band, Rager’s favorite memory was a special moment when her sister and father danced while she sang.
The music of life
She approaches her role at Children’s Hospital with unselfishness and a genuine desire to make people happy.
“When I find someone who’s a good person, I want to help them,” says Rager. “I’m very passionate about that. I want to help people find the answers because I want to see them succeed.”
Rager’s official role at Children’s Hospital spans many different areas, from coordinating sponsorship efforts, community outreach relationships and hospital expansion details to planning events and assisting senior leaders like Meg Rush, M.D., acting chair of the Department of Pediatrics and chief of staff at Children’s Hospital.
Rush says Rager is a huge help to the entire administration team.
“She’s really able to bring people together very quickly, which I think is one of her biggest strengths,” Rush says. “It’s her genuine enthusiasm, her energy, her commitment and her ever-present smile that makes her such an asset, as well as her natural ability to connect the dots.”
Similar to her musical career, Rager keeps her professional life diverse and positive. She is involved in Vanderbilt Children’s Health Improvement and Prevention initiatives, which brings the Books From Birth program and others to Children’s Hospital. She serves as the Women’s Music Business Association alumni co-chair and points the organization’s community outreach efforts toward Children’s Hospital.
She stays involved with Music Therapy programs, including Musicians On-Call, and helps musical acts connect with Volunteer Services to perform for patients at the hospital. She’s also been tapped to sing at an upcoming chapel service at Children’s Hospital.
She’s a member of Vanderbilt’s Community Connections group, which brings Vanderbilt staff together across the University as a whole, and is organizing the Gardening Series.
Rager still remains active in the music community, and she continues to write and perform. She tours around the region and performs at Nashville music venues like the Bluebird Café.
Rager shyly admits that she keeps an “Atta Girl” file tucked away at home and work.
“It’s just little emails from people and encouragements that I keep to myself,” she says. “So when I’m feeling small and I need a little pick-me-up, I read through them or I listen to some beautiful music.”
She says it reminds her of what’s really important.
“That’s why music is so powerful…in times of sorrow, or in great moments of happiness and joy, you see the best in people when music is surrounding them.”
(Rager’s website: http://www.dottierager.com)
Article on Redeye’s Hall-of-Fame induction: http://norfolkdailynews55.1upprelaunch.com/main.asp?SectionID=5&SubSectionID=66&ArticleID=30983